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The gray (or grey) whale (Eschrichtius robustus) is a baleen whale that travels between feeding and breeding grounds yearly. It reaches a length of about 16 meters (52 ft), a weight of 36 tons and an age of 50–60 years. Gray whales were once called devil fish because of their fighting behavior when hunted. The gray whale is the sole species in the genus Eschrichtius, which in turn is the sole genus in the family Eschrichtiidae. This mammal is descended from the filter-feeding whales that developed at the beginning of the Oligocene, over 30 million years before the present.
The gray whale is distributed in an eastern North Pacific (American) population and a critically endangered western North Pacific (Asian) population. Eastern and western populations in the North Atlantic became extinct in the 18th century.
Two Pacific Ocean populations of the gray whale are known to exist: one of not more than 160 individuals whose migratory route is unknown, but presumed to be between the Sea of Okhotsk and southern Korea, and a larger one with a population between 20,000 and 22,000 individuals in the Eastern Pacific travelling between the waters off Alaska and Baja California.
The whale feeds mainly on benthic crustaceans which it eats by turning on its side (usually the right, resulting in loss of eyesight in the right eye for many older gray whales) and scooping up the sediments from the sea floor. It is classified as a baleen whale and has a baleen, or whalebone, which acts like a sieve to capture small sea animals including amphipods taken in along with sand, water and other material. Mostly, the animal feeds in the northern waters during the summer; and opportunistically feeds during its migration trip, depending primarily on its extensive fat reserves.